Biennale of Performance made it to the half way mark, wrapping up its fourth week of performance art installations. The organizers managed to surprise us with some novel art-experiences, whether it was contemplative practices, spoken-word shows, extravagant rehearsals of the world ending in the most glamorous way possible. Encounters and performances resembled something closer to philosophy symposiums instead of the standard artist Q&A. In that sense, the fourth biennale week did not become an exception. There was mystification, games, buffoonery that however, had a very sophisticated intellectual background.
The week started from the meeting with Sophie Calle, a French conceptual artist whose work is usually inspired by personal dramas. Her ideas are based on seemingly simple actions taken from everyday life. For one of the projects, she followed random strangers on the streets of Paris hoping that they would give her some ideas about the next destination she might be interested in. Obviously, she never thought of art while following: Calle simply felt lost and frustrated. Another project of hers centers around the concept of a funeral rehearsal: she organized the rehearsal of her own funeral ceremony, letting people know what kind of party she wanted to have when she died. Sophie explained that the idea had nothing to do with conceptual art gesture: she simply likes to control everything, her own funeral including. The artist seems to expose her life and its documentation in various media as a work of art itself: she invites people to sleep in her bed, makes a project counting days full of anguish after her lover left her alone in India, organizes the wedding in the airport with a man she never loved. Despite the common perception that her art is tremendously emotional and personal, most of the art-critics view her work through a lens of the existential, making reference to post-modern thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille and Jean Baudrillard.
On Monday she presented the film No Sex Last Night that documents her travel around the States with a man she was in love with. The most intriguing part of it is that they talked to each other only through the cameras they are holding all the time. Sophie explains,
‘I dreamed of marrying him. He dreamed of making movies. To get him to travel across America with me, I suggested that we make a film during the trip. He agreed. Our absence of communication gave us the idea of equipping ourselves with separate cameras, making them the sole confidantes of our respective frustrations and secretly telling them all the things we were unable to say to each other’.
Those who missed the chance to meet Sophie last Monday, still can see her art in the Centro Cultural Kirchner (yes, the one where Christina was Voguing recently). Her Installation Take Care of Yourself will run until August 23. Also tomorrow, on May 27 at 6pm there will be held series of performances A view from a male perspective.
Mariana Obersztern, a performance artist, theater director and playwright from Argentina, also likes to approach the audience in a very particular, playful manner. The name of her performance El Gran Ensayo can be translated both as ‘the great essay’ and ‘the great rehearsal’. As it’s explained that ‘Obersztern’s proposal is for each attendant -even herself- to become an essayist, focusing on the personal experience that results from the assigned script’.
Entering the performance space, every participant receives an envelope with a script inside. That’s where the game starts. United into groups of three people, visitors become the part of a grandiose rehearsal playing unexpected roles themselves in the Obersztern’s theatre of the absurd.
As soon as they feel involved and even comfortable in their roles, they get interrupted for the next act; this time the display of a short movie directed by the artist. There she is professionally building some installation from wood, wire and fabric. She seems to know exactly what she is doing, but surprisingly the result of her work turned out to be nothing of apparent value: she took the materials and made them completely unfit for any use. After the film display Obersztern organized a small conference; where again nothing is real, the participants read their words from the script, even questions from the audience are written on paper long before. The nonsense that saturates the atmosphere of the artist’s performance takes shape and begins to make perfect sense. The rehearsal process as well as the process of creating a work sometimes can mean more than the final result because of the very fact that it is alive. It’s not necessary for a rehearsal to always become a final product; a potential artwork sometimes can end up as a simple pile of trash.
And there is nothing wrong about according to Obersztern.
Besides projects by Sophie Calle and Amalia Pica, the photographic performance Des Lúcidos in Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, the high point of the fifth week promises to become a performance by Chinese ‘invisible man’ Liu Bolin called Target that will be held in MACBA on Sunday.
For more information check out the official biennale page.